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New York Prisoner Awarded $105,000 for Shoulder Injury

New York Prisoner Awarded $105,000 For Shoulder Injury

On December 15, 2003, a court of claims in Syracuse, New York, awarded $105,000 plus interest to a state prisoner who suffered a torn rotator cuff as the result of a construction accident.

New York state prisoner Tommy Knights, 50, was laboring on a construction project at the Auburn Correctional Facility on May 14, 1998, when an iron support bar fell from the top of a wall above the doorway where he was working and struck him on the head.

Knights was taken to the hospital and treated for a severe lumbar contusion. Soon after, Knights began to experience pain in his left shoulder. It was then determined that Knights' rotator cuff was torn. The torn rotator cuff necessitated approximately four years of physical therapy and an April 2002 surgery in which surgeons ground Knights' acromion in order to decompress and repair his shoulder joint.

Knights sued the state of New York claiming that the injury precludes him from performing work that requires lifting or overhead tasks and prevents him from engaging in physical recreation activities such as weight-lifting, jogging and basketball. Knights further claimed that he experiences pain when he raises his left arm and that the injury causes sleep difficulties.

At trial an independent medical expert testified that Knights' shoulder injury likely resulted from the accident. The expert further testified that a second surgery would be required to remove part of Knights' shoulder bone, that Knights' shoulder pain will be ongoing, and that Knights will continue to have difficulty lifting objects or performing overhead tasks.

Knights' vocational expert, Kenneth W. Reagles, Ph.D., approximated that Knights would be able to work for 5.5 years after his scheduled parole date of July, 2007. However, Reagles further opined that because of Knights' age and limited education, Knights would only be qualified for construction work, which he would be unable to perform because of his injury.

The court held in this damages decision (a liability verdict was rendered in Knights' favor on December 4, 2002), that Knights suffered from mild but permanent shoulder impairment. Based on this, the court awarded Knights $20,000 for future medical costs, $35,000 for future pain and suffering, and $50,000 for past pain and suffering, for a total award of $105,000 plus 9% interest from the date of the liability decision.

However, the court refused to award Knights any damages for lost earnings reasoning that there was no guarantee Knights would actually be released on his scheduled parole date.

Knights was represented by Paul F. Shanahan of Rochester, New York. See: Knights v. State Of New York , Syracuse Court of Claims, Case No. 99939.

Source: VerdictSearch New York Reporter

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Related legal case

Knights v. State of New York